Review: 75 Bible Questions

He should have stopped after page thirty, for then it would have been a magnificent pamphlet instead of a painful book.  The opening section defending Reformed soteriology is probably the best in print.   I am still waiting on Orthodox Bridge to do a review of it.  The next section on God’s law is decent but the theonomy debate has moved on.

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The final section on eschatology is just bad.   There are good varieties of postmiillennialism.  Puritan and Covenanter Historicism, for one. This isn’t it. He offered no exegesis on the timing of the resurrection and the Bock/Blaising/Blomberg crowd have already won the debate.  He didn’t even try to interact with the epeita…eta construction in 1 Corinthians 15.  This is bad.    Further, he cannot explain why men live longer in the millennium (though he is correct, contra amillennialism, that they will and these passages should be read literally).  Further, he cannot locate a “link” between dominion and the return of Christ, which is brand of postmillennialism desperately needs (it makes sense after a few moments thought:  if there is no link between our current obedience and dominion and the late-return of Christ, then we cannot define the texts as postmillennial.   We can just as legitimately see an era like the Reformation as the “golden age” and expect an apostasy now.).  Even more, he defaulted to the view that all premillennialists are of the Hal Lindsey variety.  Tactics like these explain why Historic Premillennialism is the mainstream view among conservative evangelical scholars.  In short, this book reaffirmed my premillennialism.

The appendices alternated between insightful and sinful.  His tactics of resistance are necessary against a humanist institution.  I’ve used a few of them before.  They are sinful against a Christian institution (even one as corrupt as a certain one in the American South; 1 Corinthians 6).  This is particularly ironic since he (rightly) earlier says we should have Christian courts to adjudicate these matters.

Rehabilitating Dominion as a Theological Category

I stand by all my earlier criticisms of Reconstructionism.  Still, when I study the doctrine of sanctification and the image of God (particularly the Shorter Catechism’s language!) I cannot help but see “dominion” as an inescapable concept.

Reconstructionism’s problem was that they “grasped” too early.  Many were trying to take over a compromised system and …I don’t know what they planned to do.  Even when Gary North said (correctly) that the takeover will be by regeneration, not revolution, that begged the question, “Well, why bother with all this law-teaching on taking over the government at all?”

To make matters worse, if the Constitution is a compromise with Freemasonry, which I agree with Gary North and think it is, then why bother with the “Christianity and the Constitution” narrative?

The shame, though, is that dominion got so associated with Reconstructionism that no one will speak of it today.  But if you reject a metaphysical approach to salvation and sanctification, and opt rather (and rightly) for a covenantal approach, you are left with something like dominion.

But don’t be alarmed.  This doesn’t mean we have to go recon.  It just means we need to be honest about the bible’s language.

  • We’ve been renewed in the whole man after the image of Christ.
  • We are priests and kings (Revelation).   This is ruler language.
  • We should not submit again to slavery (Galatians 5-6)
  • We have the spirit of the Lord, which is freedom (2 Corinthians).
  • If sin is ethical in content and not metaphysical, then salvation is ethical deliverance.   Thus, dominion.
  • John Wyclif.

On the recent Triablogue discussion

One of my posts raised a  discussion on triablogue.   My intention in the post was simply to show that EO’s claim of “Well, we offer communion with God” isn’t unique.  That’s it.   I pointed out how other traditions can offer the same claim.  I did not intend to say that EO = Hinduism = Islam = Mooneyism.   My state was simply a literary rhetorical flourish.   Many simply did not see that (I’ve long suspected that Modern Reformed’s over-analyticism precludes its ability to see literary patterns.  I now have proof).

One gentleman asked, “But EO believes in the Incarnation and these other traditions do not.”

To which I say, “Yeah, but…”

EO believes that the Logos instrumentalizes a generic form of human nature for the sole purpose of deifiying the flesh (all of the Eastern Fathers are very clear on this point; cf Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of his Thought, Routledge).   We believe, by contrast, that the Logos assumed a human body (remember the catechism’s language on this point) within the larger narrative of redemption.  So when the EO speaks of incarnation and Rho speaks of incarnation, they have two fundamentally different goals in mind.

We have a narratival ontology of the Word that Speaks; EO has a classical metaphysics of a substance “behind the thing” (which fits in nicely with their doctrine of essence/energies).

I noticed, interestingly, that many of my challengers didn’t respond to my comments about the Instrumentalization Thesis.

Let’s ask the question another way

What’s man’s basic problem?   As a good Reformed you would say something like “sin” or “rebellion against God.”  That would be correct.  That is covenantal, ethical religion.

Metaphysical religion will say that man’s basic problem is the fundamental slide towards nonbeing.

It really does come back to Chain of Being vs. Covenant.   Sharp EO apologists also know this, which is why they will decry Covenant theology as “nominalist” or “nestorian” or some other n-word.   They are wrong, but they are sharper than the sons of light in this matter.
Postscript:
One of the not-funny ironies of the Van Til tradition is that they really didn’t understand what Van Til was saying.  I disagree with CvT more than I agree with him, but I notice when I quote CvT on the influence of Greek thinking, Reformed people get very, very nervous (this isn’t necessarily true of the Triablogue folks–though it might be–I am making a general observation).  In fact, the only people who truly understood CvT were the recons.  I remember going on Puritanboard some months ago and saying, quoting Michael Horton word-for-word,
“Instead of copying Plato’s “two-world idea” scheme, maybe we should rather go with St Paul’s Two-Age scheme.”   That line was probably the most important line of ontology I’ve ever read.  The responses on PB were anywhere from silent nervousness to “We can’t have that.”

The Constitution Argument won’t work

On one of the Facebook pages (Christ in Civil Government, or something like that), a certain prominent disciple of Rushdoony complained that if more people were outraged by our government’s violating the constitution as they were about Phil Robertson’s getting fired, our country would be a lot better.  I disagree; in the long run Phil Robertson will reach infinitely more people than “yet another argument for the Constitution.”  It’s really quite simple: nobody gives a damn about abstract, intellectual arguments.  The average man on the street, Christian or not, simply cannot understand (and quite frankly, doesn’t care about) the intricate details of political theory.  They do understand concrete details, though.  They can identify with an authentic, simple person who says what he means and likely represents the majority of Americans.

Ultimately, this is the same argument for something like monarchy.  This is why monarchy is so appealing.  “Value-talk” is abstract.  Only a few people can follow it.  Is it important?  Sure, but don’t inflate its importance.  (This is why apologetics is subject to the law of diminishing returns.)  What monarchy at its best moment points to is the embodiment in a concrete entity of the nation’s culture.  Maybe most people can’t articulate it like that, but there you have it.

Does postmillennialism make theonomy a 5th wheel?

Theonomists seek to alleviate secularists’ fears of an armed theocratic take-over which will institute God’s law by saying, “It will happen when the gospel takes wide effect.”  In other words, they won’t be imposing a Shariah-type law because most of the populace will be Christian and will gladly accept it.

I grant that they make such a distinction.  I just don’t think it matters.   If postmillennialism ends up being true and the people accept Christ and Christ gives them His Spirit, then what’s the deal with the law anyway?  You already have a godly society.  There are Christians today who are very godly yet reject theonomy.   Banner of Truth, for one.  The point is this:  if the only way in which “godly law” will be instituted is when most of the populace is Christian, then why are you even focused on reconstruction?  By your own admission you can’t do anything about it in the near, foreseeable future. And if society is converted, then they are going to be living godlily (sp?), Moses’s law or not.

On calling no man “Teacher”

We like to point out to Roman Catholics that Jesus says call no man “father.”  We think that’s a good criticism of their praxis (and it is).   But I’ve seen something even more troubling:   this problem is infinitely worse in the subcultures of American evangelicalism.   We rally behind our favorite teachers and allow no criticism, not even dissent, of them.  Roman Catholics and EO really don’t have that problem.  Here is how a discussion goes.   Some of us will say that many aspects of Christian Reconstruction went off the rails and Rushdoony was wrong on a number of issues (denying the 3-fold distinction of the law, food laws, 2nd Commandment, Paedocommunion, denying the covenant of works, separating himself from the church for 8 years, etc).  Notice we didn’t say anything about his character.  I like Rushdoony, actually.  I think he is a fine teacher and his series on  So here is the conversation:

Recon1:  Show from Scripture where Rushdoony is wrong?

Me:  He held to the ongoing food laws.

Recon1:  Like I said, show one verse where he is wrong on the food laws.

Me:  Seriously?  (Eventually I quote 1 Timothy 4)

And this train wreck went on for about 100 more posts.  Obviously, you can see what’s going on here.   No criticism of “our venerated teacher” is allowed.

And I am grateful that God brought me out of this.  I used to be the world’s worst.  I used to rally behind different teachers.  I don’t want to sound overly pious, but I think I now understand what Jesus meant by not calling any man teacher.  I have a lot of sermons and lectures on my iPod, but it’ so scrambled I often don’t know who is saying what.

Is this the final breath of Christian Reconstruction?

I am deliberately late to the Doug Phillips debacle.  My interest is from another angle:  for better or worse, the Phillips axis (Vision Forum, Morecraft, and to a lesser extent American Vision) represented the last coherent front for Christian Reconstruction (which is not the same thing as theonomy).  When Bahnsen and Rushdoony passed from the scene, there really wasn’t any scholarly impetus.  Yes, there was Gentry, but has he published in the last six years (and I think I know why he hasn’t)?  Has Gary Demar written on something besides partial preterism and America’s Christian heritage?

Someone will say, “Yeah, well what have you written?”  Nothing yet.  I do have a book on Eastern Orthodoxy in the works.  I also plan to write one on Covenantal Premillennialism.  I have an essay on premillennial monarchy in outline form.

The Christian Reconstruction world has been marked by scandals but has proven fairly resilient, mostly due to competent scholars and debaters. (This is less known, but there was another CR leader who while not committing adultery, pressed the envelope in that direction and was disciplined by his presbytery.  This happened while I was in seminary).  Vision Forum, for one, was highly successful in marketing.   I mean honestly, who wouldn’t want to buy half of those products?  I still want one of those crossbows!  But in light of recent scandals, VF has shut down.  With the exception of American Vision, Christian Reconstruction has no more outlets and it won’t make a comeback.   VF’s scandals are far beyond the founder flirting with a young nanny. Evidence is coming up of financial fraud.  Now I don’t particularly cry too hard that the IRS got stiffed.   Couldn’t have happened to a better group of people, but these kind of repercussions can be devastating.  I am glad I cut loose of CR six years ago.

It’s not so much that young thinkers don’t want to be associated with “immoral” scandals (and the details are fuzzy, beyond the “not knowing in a biblical sense” admission).   That’s bad enough but sadly, fairly common.   If the financial allegations are true, then legal issues arise and it becomes plutonium.  Young Van Tillians are simply going to go to Westminster Seminary.  Theonomy’s day is over.  While the Obama administration is seeming to vindicate everything Gary North has said, it appears to be too little too late.